Plenty of runners and weight loss enthusiasts are asking me about how to become a more efficient fat burner. Losing body fat, reducing carbohydrate intake, high fat diets - these are all becoming increasingly popular topics for you guys...
So - I've personally been undertaking a bit of a mission to increase my own fat burning potential, reduce my body fat levels, and still maintain a good level of performance.
This process has taken quite some time, and I think that's actually a key to getting it right.
As a dietitian with lots of experience in modifying diets AND maintaining training performance, this topic is of EXTREME interest to me.
Anyway - yesterday I had a long run booked in for 10:30am - I was busy beforehand so when I started running I had ingested zero food - the result was interesting - I ran at a good pace, finished up and was still not hungry, light headed, or feeling desperate for food in any way. I simply COULD NOT DO THAT a year ago. The process I've undertaken has trained me up to sustain periods of fasting, and mornings without food quite easily.
Interested in getting your fat burn potential up and your body fat level down?
Here's how I did it:
1) Eliminate added sugars and high glycaemic index carbs - this process should take at LEAST a month, so that you work on it slowly and actually modify behaviors in a sustainable way. In this group of foods to work on eliminating is anything obviously high sugar like soft drinks, milo, sweets, lollies, cake etc. The next group is the highly processed carbs like most breads, commercial breakfast cereals, white rice and the like.
2) Switch to a high protein breakfast. Actually, I use a few breakfast strategies now, often I'll have high protein options like eggs or an omelette, if in a rush I'll use heavy grainy toast with peanut butter, OR I'll eat nothing a couple of times per week. The goal here is to keep the blood sugar level low from the previous night, so our insulin levels stay low, allowing the body a much LONGER window of fat burn time. This step is super super useful.
3) Introduce Morning Training. Start with short easy sessions fasted, and build up over months to long runs with no food prior. Don't rush this step, its a slow process and seems to be taking my coaching clients 3 months minimum to adapt to a fasted morning training session where the correct intensities can be maintained. As a guide, I wouldn't introduce this step to most athletes or fat loss clients until they had been doing steps 1 and 2 for a minimum of 2 months. That's just my time frames, based on experience with a broad range of athletes and fat loss clients.
4) Manage your carbohydrate intake. This step refers to then packing your carbohydrate intake in after training mostly. I believe that regardless of what popular media is telling us, we all need carbohydrate containing foods in some capacity. They contain nutrients key to overall health, and even a good fat burner will be burning a MIX of carbs and fat at most intensities. People who go below around 50g of carbs per day tend to suffer at some point with poor health, poor training, or both. No need. What I get clients to do is aim to have their highest carb containing meal straight after training, or the next most practical meal. Simple as that. We'll also work on carb types, we'll look at overall fibre intake, and we'll ensure that the carbs are from good, mostly unprocessed sources.
5) Improve the muscles ability to burn fatty acids. We need to build more mitochondria (the powerhouses of cells) for muscles, and we need to build more insulin sensitivity. We do this by including some strength training in our program, and some high intensity training. These steps are important even for distance runners, and in fact I've had many ultra runners talk to me about tweaks to their training, and nothing else, that has seen them shed body fat at a rate not seen before. Training for an Ultra Marathon and training for fat loss are 2 different things, but they can be merged together with good effect if you have access to someone skilled enough to help you out.
The bottom line for me with converting people into better fat burners is that it is achievable for anyone, but most people are not aware of the time frames involved. It takes at least 3 months to get things happening. That's just how it is - accept it. Then work through the process.
Do I coach runners and fat loss clients? Of course I do - go to my SHOP tab and check it out!